Ferrari say they lost the F1 2019 battle to Mercedes before the season even began after designing a car which was “not good enough”.
Although Ferrari turned heads in pre-season testing with their pace, their season quickly unravelled after a crushing opener in Australia and the famous Italian team didn’t secure a victory until after the summer break, by which point their championship optimism had long been a distant memory.
Ferrari’s issue wasn’t that they couldn’t compete with Mercedes in terms of engine power or in qualifying – they were by far the quickest on the straights in 2019 and finished with nine poles to Merc’s 10 – but that their SF90’s aerodynamic package was no match for their rivals in the corners.
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Their season was also littered with team and driver mistakes, but Mattia Binotto was in no doubt when asked what the key moment was in the Scuderia’s demise.
“I think we lost this last year when designing that car,” the Ferrari team boss said.
“We were not competitive at the start of the season and there are reasons for it, so I think the car project was not good enough to start with.
“Our development rate, and generally speaking our design, was not as good as our competitors.”
Mercedes started the season with eight consecutive victories, while even Red Bull claimed two wins before Charles Leclerc or Sebastian Vettel stood on the top step of the podium for Ferrari.
They did make progress in the second half of the campaign and seemed to make a breakthrough with their package when taking a one-two in Singapore, a high-downforce track which features more low-speed corners than any other on the calendar.
“It has certainly been an intense season with a lot to do,” Binotto, new in his role for 2019, added.
“We have restructured and reorganised the team, but in the meantime we have always tried to address and improve the car and I think we did this through the season – at least to some level.”
That Singapore win, however, was their last of the season, with Binotto admitting the team “lost performance” in comparison to Mercedes and Red Bull at the end of 2019.
Ferrari, without a title in over a decade, are now facing a crunch winter as they ponder their car design for 2020 – when the car regulations are largely unchanged.
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.
This weekend’s 2020 event, which will be broadcast live and ad-break free on Fox Sports, also features 23 drivers who will brave the Daytona-Bathurst double, with the famous Florida circuit hosting the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona last weekend.
Among them will be Supercars ace Chaz Mostert, who broke through for BMW for a stunning class victory in the daylong epic.
Mostert will drive with Brazilian Augusto Farfus and Dutchman Nicky Catsburg in a Walkenhorst BMW M6GT3 for the 12 Hour, and with Daytona victory in tow, will be full of confidence to attack a race half the length.
Mostert and Farfus, who combined for Sunday’s win, drove to fifth in last year’s 12 Hour, which was thrust into the minds of race fans thanks to Aussie young gun Matt Campbell’s late-race wizardry.
Porsche gun Campbell was behind countryman Mostert on the Daytona podium, but has Bathurst momentum on his side following his staggering triumph 12 months ago.
Campbell is one of nine former 12 Hour winners who will tackle this weekend’s race, with a combined 11 victories.
Among will be Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup, with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team Supercars stablemates to drive a Triple Eight-prepared Mercedes AMG GT3 with German driver Maximilian Gotz.
There will be 16 Supercars drivers on the grid who took part in the 2019 season: Mostert, van Gisbergen, Whincup, Kelly, Craig Lowndes, David Reynolds, Anton De Pasquale, Garth Tander, Tim Slade, Nick Percat, Lee Holdsworth, Tony D’Alberto, Dean Fiore, Jake Kostecki, Warren Luff and Dean Canto.
Qualifying at 12.40pm AEDT on Saturday, followed by the Pirelli Shootout at 5.05pm, will be live and exclusive on Fox Sports.
Chris Stubbs and Neil Crompton will host Fox Sports’ 12 Hour coverage with live race commentary from Radio Le Mans experts John Hindhaugh and Richard Craill.
Ferrari young gun Charles Leclerc believes is aiming as high as possible in 2020, a season he believes will be a “very important year” for the team ahead of the regulation overhaul from 2021.
A significant rules shake-up may shift the tide in the sport following Mercedes’ domination of the V6 hybrid era since 2014, with the Silver Arrows claiming six drivers’-constructors’ doubles on the trot.
Ferrari, meanwhile, hasn’t won a drivers’ championship since 2007, and is without a constructors’ crown since 2008.
The team has suffered before – prior to a run of six straight constructors’ titles between 1999 and 2004, Ferrari toiled through a 16-year spell without a team title, while also going on a barren run without a drivers’ championship from 1980 to 1999.
The Maranello squad has finished second in the constructors’ standings four times (2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019) behind Mercedes since 2014, while Sebastian Vettel’s runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018 are the team’s best drivers’ performance.
Closing the gap to Mercedes remains the priority, but Leclerc – who is heading into his second season in red – suggested teams will be spending big this season ahead of a big crack at the 2021 rules overhaul.
“I hope in 2020 I can win the title, but I am happy to wait until 2021 if I have the title for sure,” Leclerc said at the Autosport International earlier this month.
“It is going to be very difficult and I think 2020 will be a very important year when teams are going to invest a lot because the budget cap is coming in from 2021.
“I will try to be as ready as possible for 2021 as I think it will be a big year and hopefully we will be working properly as a team to build the right car to be able to win the championship.”
Critically, 2020 also looms as a defining season for both Leclerc and Vettel, with the duo’s sometime fractious on-track relationship spoiled any momentum the team found in 2019.
While 22-year-old Leclerc has shored up his future with the team, Vettel is off-contract after 2020 – and the German, who arrived at Ferrari tasked with bringing the title back to Italy, has now assumed a secondary position at the team which has stuck by him for five seasons.
However, only last month, Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto said the four-time world champion is “central to our project” and a “key driver of us” despite lingering rumours of a high-profile Lewis Hamilton defection, with Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo also mooted for a move to the Italian squad.
Leclerc won two races and claimed a season-high seven pole positions en route to fourth in the standings, with Vettel fifth.
The Monegasque has set a very high bar for 2020, but understands the job is down to the driver – despite German publication Auto Bild reports suggesting the 2020 Ferrari car’s initial simulator and wind tunnel data ‘didn’t impress engineers’.
“The goal is always to target the highest possible so in case I fail to get there I only go a little bit below,” said Leclerc.
“Basically, it is to be world champion which is very, very optimistic but I will always target very high.
“This is it and I will try to give everything to try to win. In the end I am driving, for me, the best team and I just want to give them what they deserve so it is up to me to do the job on the track.”